Following a week of political turmoil that has left Sri Lanka with two Prime Ministers, there are serious concerns about the potential for widespread protests that could turn violent. Large protests are expected on Tuesday 30th of October in Colombo. Monitor the media and avoid the area – further advice below.
On Friday, the President of Sri Lanka, President Sirisena dismissed Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and appointed opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa in his place. Wickremesinghe has said this move is illegitimate and he has refused to leave the official residence. He has stated that he remains prime minister.
Sirisena suspended parliament from noon on Saturday until the 16th of November, when it will reconvene and decide who is prime minister.
Oil ministry shooting
Following the suspension of parliament and the firing of the cabinet, oil minister Arjuna Ranatunga tried to re-enter his office at the headquarters of state oil company Ceylon Petroleum Corp. Protestors blocked his path and tried to stop him entering. One of his security guards opened fire, injuring two people and killing another. The security guard was arrested on Sunday and Ranatunga was arrested on Monday. Ranatunga, who was a famous cricketer before running for office, has said his security guard opened fire because the crowd was trying to kill him.
A very problematic past
Rajapaska was in charge of the country during the end of the civil war, which saw very disturbing alleged war crimes committed against the Tamil fighters. Huge numbers of civilians died. The Guardian reports that his ‘tenure was also marred by accusations his security forces were forcibly disappearing, torturing and murdering activists and dissidents.’
There are reports of Rajapaksa’s supporters intimidating the press over the weekend. Al Jazeera reports that ‘supporters of Rajapaksa stormed several state media institutions and intimidated staff after he was sworn in.’
England cricket match
England’s cricket team is currently on tour in Sri Lanka. The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is monitoring the security situation. You can find guidance and more details, including contact information, on the FCO’s advice page – England Cricket Tour of Sri Lanka travel advice.
The Telegraph reports that the England team have been warned up to 15,000 people may attend the protest –
The demonstration is scheduled to take place over two miles away from the venue in Maitland Crescent where England are playing their first warm-up match at Nondescripts Cricket Club. The demonstrators are due to meet outside Temple Trees, the residence of Sri Lanka’s prime minister, which happens to be on the same street as the England team hotel, the Shangri-la, albeit nearly one mile away.
Travel advice for those who are in Sri Lanka –
- You should avoid demonstrations, large crowds of people and public events.
- Review your travel risk management plan, so you know what to do in an emergency.
- Make sure you have the contact information of your travel insurance company and your local embassy stored in a secure offline location.
- Monitor local media.
- If possible, set aside some supplies of food and bottled water.
- Keep your devices charged.
- Check in with friends and family.
- If something does happen, contact the local embassy as soon as it is safe to do so.
Official travel advice
#SriLanka Security Alert: Large protest scheduled on Oct 30th at 12pm near the Prime Minister’s residence, Temple Trees. Due to the current political situation, US Citizens are reminded of an increased likelihood of civil unrest, strikes, & demonstrations. https://t.co/iA0p5PGP10 pic.twitter.com/5fsrZY9YYi
— Travel – State Dept (@TravelGov) October 29, 2018
#SriLanka: The president of Sri Lanka moved to dismiss the prime minister on Oct 26, which may lead to a period of political instability. Exercise vigilance and avoid all demonstrations. https://t.co/JMQSeOpnsr
— travel.gc.ca (@TravelGoC) October 29, 2018
#SriLanka Emergency Message: Increased likelihood of political turmoil, civil unrest, and demonstrations as a result of the President of Sri Lanka’s decision to dismiss the Prime Minister and suspend parliament. Avoid area of demonstrations. https://t.co/lj1hIpP2tC pic.twitter.com/vcQLBDYM1y
— Travel – State Dept (@TravelGov) October 29, 2018
#Sri Lanka On 26 Oct the President of Sri Lanka sought to dismiss the Prime Minister, likely to lead to a period of political instability. You should exercise vigilance and avoid all demonstrations or large political gatherings. https://t.co/BlPo500ZTZ pic.twitter.com/UMkbMKjE4V
— FCO travel advice (@FCOtravel) October 27, 2018
Be alert to political developments in Sri Lanka. Follow local media, avoid protests and large public gatherings.
Please read Smartraveller travel advice: https://t.co/xB7UqpUdjr
— Bryce Hutchesson (@AusHCSriLanka) October 27, 2018
Headlines and news coverage
Sri Lanka’s failure to prosecute the war crimes of the Rajapaksa government threatens to come back to haunt the people of the country as Rajapaksa now returns to power: @HRW. https://t.co/ELhJ1yI8Ri pic.twitter.com/8tocGokCZZ
— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) October 28, 2018
— EU in Sri Lanka (@EU_in_Sri_Lanka) October 27, 2018
— Al Jazeera News (@AJENews) October 27, 2018
— Telegraph Cricket (@telecricket) October 29, 2018
Sri Lanka, one of Asia’s oldest democracies, has now been left with two prime ministers claiming legitimacy, and concerns that violence might be used to break the stalemate.https://t.co/pA8fK0CRNX
— Mujib Mashal (@MujMash) October 29, 2018
Sri Lanka’s parliament speaker warned the country could descend into political violence if the legislature remains suspended throughout a leadership struggle https://t.co/3nkKl8r2pj
— Bloomberg (@business) October 29, 2018
#UPDATE Police arrested Sri Lanka’s petroleum minister, a day after a man was killed when bodyguards opened fire to rescue him from a group loyal to the country’s president: officials https://t.co/aqZU9QEbw7
— AFP news agency (@AFP) October 29, 2018
Sri Lanka’s Tamils now speak in hushed voices as if someone is listening. They sound uneasy, but also resigned to another period of repression, painfully aware of the inevitability of a crackdown https://t.co/buNCukMZXH — #AJOpinion, by Mario Arulthas pic.twitter.com/g5DAXprkCC
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) October 29, 2018
— FRANCE 24 (@FRANCE24) October 29, 2018
Sri Lanka’s political crisis: everything you need to know https://t.co/TSGnjeVkN0
— The Guardian (@guardian) October 29, 2018
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